Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chef in the Making

Blake and I are H-U-G-E fans of Food Network's high-energy competition cooking show, Chopped. I am always fascinated by the ingenuity of the chefs on the show, and slightly jealous of people who can just whip up a recipe on the spot. I still need a detailed recipe from a reliable source. Blake says I am still "ahead of the game" - serving up meals that most girls my age have yet to master. I can make some great stuff - but none of it is necessarily difficult, you just have to have the right recipe.

Lately, I have been challenging myself to branch out and make changes to recipes. I am not ready to make a recipe of my own, but I am learning how to add to or make changes to recipes. I think that's a good start. I am learning what flavors go together, new techniques, and timing. Timing is one of the hardest parts of cooking (to me, at least)!!

Last night, we had some ground sirloin and bacon that both needed to be cooked. Of course, our first thought was "burgers" - but I can make a good burger already. I wanted to do something different. So.... I tried bacon wrapped mini-meatloafs. The "structure" of the recipe was actually a meatball recipe from Calling All Cooks, and I just adapted it to the ingredients I had on hand.

I mixed the ground sirloin with about a cup of crushed Roasted Veggie flavored Ritz, milk (never again!!), 1/2 c chopped onion, 1 egg, salt and pepper. And I added a little cheddar cheese because I just love cheese. I shaped the meat into small meatballs and seared them in a hot skillet.

Then, we (Blake helped!) wrapped the meatballs with half a slice of bacon and stuck a toothpick in them to hold them up. I baked them at 350F for about 30 minutes.

I have learned that whenever I try a new recipe, I need to also make an old recipe favorite just in case the new recipe is a flop. Plus, I needed an excuse to make corn casserole! So simple, and sooooo delicious.
1 can creamed corn, 1 can whole kernel corn, 8oz sour cream, 1/2 c butter, 1 small box Jiffy corn mix, 1c or so of shredded cheese, chopped onion (if you like).... bake at 350 for 45 min, then top with more cheese and bake for another 15 min. YUM.

We are also "salad people" - I love a good salad. Blake and I have very different takes on salad. His is a plain old American salad - lettuce, cucumber, Ranch, and cheddar cheese. Mine is a more sophisticated salad. ;) Lettuce (I think we had just Romain yesterday, but we also like Watercress a lot), fresh strawberries, toasted almonds, Feta, and raspberry-walnut vinaigrette. I have to thank Kathryn for inspiring that salad combo!

The final product - okay, looks like a pretty empty plate because we have ginormous plates, but it really was a lot of food. The corn casserole was awesome, as expected. Hard to go wrong with that. And the bacon wrapped mini-meatloafs (complete with a little ketchup "sauce") was actually half decent! It wasn't the best thing I have ever made, but I think with a few changes, we might have a yummy original recipe on our hands.

The mistakes I made were simple:
The Calling All Cooks recipe said to put milk in the meat mixture.... I knew it sounded weird, but I tried it anyway. Like I said earlier, NEVER again! It didn't make it taste bad, but it made it harder for the meat to stick together. An egg will do the trick.
I also forgot to saute the onions first, and they didn't cook as well as they thought I would inside the oven.
I also need to add some herbs/spices (other than salt & pepper) to the beef next time.

We agreed that this was a recipe to try again in a couple of weeks. I think it could be a really good one with the right ingredients! And maybe one day I can go on Chopped.... okay, probably not.... :)

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